Hi, I'm Ben Hazell. I used to blog here about the media, but now I work there I don't write here anymore.
I'm the Web Publishing Editor at - I find better ways to tell stories, developing tools, training and practice for journalists.

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The Blog

Rarely updated now, used during Journalism MA at the University of Sheffield.

The police state's not that dumb...

Wednesday, 5 March 2008
An analysis of the Metropolitan Police’s new Counter-Terrorism advertising campaign.

The posters are brilliantly designed; the mass of cameras with the single one ringed indicates both that there is a terrorist photographer out there, but also that the Police can identify them from the masses. It re-affirms the threat, and reassures us of the police’s protective power.

The red white and black imagery and McCarthy-esq language is powerful, but seems to be deliberately drawn from fascist and dystopian cultural myths. Compare the posters to V for Vendetta, 1984 or Children of Men. Even the ranks of identical cameras seem to indicate a forced hegemony. Already anti-fascist re-workings are popping up online, as if taking the bait. Protest about the posters is growing.

I don’t believe that fascism is innately drawn to this artistic style, and I don’t think the choice of imagery is revealing about the authorities. Poster design is not an accident. I’d be more worried if the posters were a friendly green and white. While we may have a problem with social observation and the targeting of minorities in this country, with CCTV and spot-checks, I suspect the Met isn’t dumb enough to needlessly boast in this manner.

I believe that the Met is deliberately playing on these myths, targeting the adverts not just at the greater public, but at the bad-guys directly.

The Met’s greatest fear seems to be the low-level radicalisation of home-grown terrorists rather than trained outsiders, and projecting allusions of power may serve to frighten these individuals out of terror plots.

This would be the rough equivalent of the American ‘Surge’ strategy; to impose a high level of control for a short unsustainable period, hoping that the ensuing calm becomes accepted as normal. If government propaganda can force a brief reduction in plotter activity, the reduction may stick.

It’s long been known that the sensation of being watched makes people more honest, so it seems likely that the Met are overplaying their power here, drawing on authoritarian imagery to project the illusion of power against the enemies among us. The posters are there to frighten the dishonest.

So I don’t think these posters are an indication of our slide into a fascist dystopia, but rather a well designed projection of the power of nightmares against the enemies of the state.

I’m not sure I agree with this all, but I just can’t accept the initial reaction that the posters betray fascist tendencies in the police. There’s more to it.

But, if you really don’t like the posters, just consider it an open invitation of waste police time.


kate said...

I particularly like the LOLcat one, but you know what I'm like with those crazy cats!

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